The Mantra of Employer Branding

Just like products, which have to be made appealing in order to win over customers and beat the competition, companies will need to present themselves as caring, top-notch employers if they intend to put under contract the crème de la crème the work market has to offer.

by Luca Brunoni

Employer branding means utilizing methods and strategies in order to attract – and retain – talented and skilled employees, and in order to build a reputation for offering appealing conditions and a pleasant working atmosphere.

Courtesy of Interbrand.

In an era of iPads, smart phones and non-stop internet access, it is not surprising that corporate websites play an important role in the making or breaking of a company’s EVP (Employee Value Proposition). Eric Sylvers, head of Employer Branding at Lundquist, maintains that websites are “the most strategic tools for Employer Branding” because “everybody [visits them] before deciding whether to apply” for a position. Based on this conviction Lundquist launched, in 2010, the first “Employer Branding Online Awards”, ranking the world’s “100 strongest brands”. The initiative is an important one not only because it brings to the foreground the importance of Employer Branding in today’s market, but also because it raises the bar for the companies’ efforts in the field. But an informative, user friendly website is merely the surface of a strong Employer Branding strategy.
According to Samuel Barrows, co-author of the book The Employer Brand – Bringing the Best of Brand Management to People at Work, Employer Branding is really a “package of economic, social, human attributes associated with employment and identified with the employing company”, as well as an “exercise in bringing the same care and coherence expected by customers to the employees.”

Any Employer Branding strategy starts, therefore, with a new understanding of the relationship between employee and employer. Nimai Swaroop, who has helped Royal Dutch Shell (first ranked in Lundquist’s 2010 awards) develop a “single Employer Brand across the group”, believes that “People remain [a company’s] greatest asset”: “we focus huge efforts on personal development of staff by creating a win-win partnership with employees in identifying their development needs and building their careers.”

Courtesy of Interbrand.

BIG IS BEST? Companies have also discovered the importance of a strong Employer Brand in the context of the expansion into foreign markets. Klaus Maier, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz China, is convinced that “it’s the people who create a great culture and brand while also providing the company with the energy to live a sustainable long life”, and states that Mercedes has therefore made it a priority to “hire the best people and become the best employer”. At first view, Employer Branding may appear to be a concept belonging exclusively to big enterprises and their five star HR departments; Samuel Barrows however insists that this is not the case: “small businesses do of course have an individual reputation for the working experience they offer. They will have to cope with managing that experience, recruiting and motivating their teams, and will have to worry about how their business stands out versus their competitors. While they may not realize it in the mass of daily pressures, they will need the insights, the planning and the implementation which an Employer Branding process can provide.” The growing influence of Employer Branding is going to inevitably shift the employees’ expectations concerning the content and form of job offerings. Companies not attentive to these developments will from now on be at risk of sticking out from the competition – for the wrong reasons.

CASE HISTORY: Deutsche Telekom Employer Branding

Courtesy of Interbrand.

Deutsche Telekom is attracting a great deal of attention with its employer image campaign, which specifically addresses new target audiences. This communication is based on an employer value proposition, clearly defined in line with the brand positioning and internal guidelines in collaboration with Interbrand. In addition to implementing the employer value proposition in communication campaigns, it is essential that all programs and offers be aligned consistently in order to have a credible image on the market – a must for employer branding.  This approach has proven successful for Telekom so far. Since the brand has been clearly positioned on the job market, its reputation has improved among students and graduates. The brand has become more popular among economists, engineers and IT specialists alike, reaching 12th place in the ranking of the top 100 employers. When asked to rate the best career websites of 100 major German companies, participants ranked Telekom number 2 behind Bertelsmann.


Published in the hard-copy of Work Style Magazine, Winter 2011